Billy “Elvis” Lindsey, 54, made Bradenton’s Stella Baluta swoon Sunday.
“I’m 85, so this is very nice,” Baluta whispered to a friend moments after Lindsey, an Elvis tribute artist, planted a kiss on her cheek during the first of his two benefit shows Sunday at The Sarasota Classic Car Museum, 5500 N. Tamiami Trail.
A Tampa resident who performs as the late rock ’n’ roll king Elvis Presley four times a week as his regular job, Lindsey donated his talents Sunday to raise funds for Sixteen Hands Horse Sanctuary on Wauchula Road in Myakka City.
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The nonprofit sanctuary is caring for 35 abused, abandoned and neglected horses and is struggling to make ends meet, said president Robin Cain.
“The horses love you for this,” Cain told the crowds, which filled the 120-seat event center at the museum and helped generate more than $3,000 to the care of the horses, whose care runs $3,500 a month for grain and hay alone.
Lindsey has been performing as Elvis for more than 20 years and watching him backstage as he prepared for his concert, one could almost feel him take on the persona of The King as he got further and further into his preparations.
“Elvis was my childhood hero,” Lindsey said as he applied black paint to his sideburns while looking into a small mirror. “He got in trouble, won the girl, lost the girl, won her back. Everyone else was into Superman when I was a kid, but I was into Elvis.”
Lindsey grew up in Indiana and saw Elvis perform for the first time in South Bend when he was a youngster. He told his mother, “I want to sing like that.”
Lindsey, who owns five white jumpsuits custom-made by a seamstress in Illinois, isn’t into creating a caricature of Elvis. Rather, he works to present Elvis as he may have been on stage during a serious concert.
“Elvis was first and foremost the greatest looking man in the world,” Lindsey said as reached inside a garment bag for his white Elvis jumpsuit.
“Then, add to that his voice and his attitude toward people. He was always giving. He once gave a lady his Cadillac just because he saw her walking on the sidewalk.”
Having a 29-inch waist and a chiseled chest also helps Lindsey get the message across.
Once Lindsey hit the stage, he took things nice and slow, even down to the chatter with the audience.
“If I’m gonna eavesdrop, you gotta talk louder,” Lindsey told the crowd.
On “Burning Love” he had all the gyrations down. The sweat on Lindsey’s chest was also pure Elvis.
Sitting at a table near the stage, Bradenton Elvis fans Beverly Gilchrist, Edith Hurlbutt, Marian Proudian and Baluta were soaking up Elvis vibes.
“I saw Elvis three times,” said Gilchrist. “Let’s see. It was Las Vegas in 1960 or 1961, and I saw him again in 1965.”
What did she love about him?
“Everything,” she said.
“The way he shook his booty,” Baluta chimed in.
“He threw me a scarf,” Gilchrist added. “I love his Gospel songs and ‘Love Me Tender.’ ”
Cain, herself, is a lifelong Elvis fan. She is event coordinator at the Museum and has a special place for Elvis shows.
“Oh, he was so good looking,” Cain said of Elvis. “He had such sex appeal and he could sing your socks off.”
Cain got her first Elvis album at age 8 and still owns all of Elvis’s movies and most of his records, not to mention other memorabilia.
“Billy does the songs like Elvis did,” said Cain, who couldn’t help moving to the songs. “It’s like Elvis is here tonight.”
For more information about the Sixteen Hands Sanctuary or to donate, contact Sixteen Hands Horse Sanctuary, 6275 Wauchula Road, Myakka City, FL 34251, or sixteenhandshorsesanctuary.org or (941) 228-5441.